It was a radical act to put a stop to my busy and (on the surface) 'successful' London life as I knew it, by moving away for a year with nothing but an image of a bed and yoga mat for company. It was an act of inspiration - and desperation. You see, I'm a (recovering) perfectionist, workaholic and people pleaser. Through these behaviours I developed an eating disorder and became anxious and apologetic for who I am. An urgent change was needed to silence my vile, self-deprecating inner critic and learn how to be kind to myself, and start to actually 'love myself' - words I never used to think could be in the same sentence.
It's October 2012.
Where: Electric Woman Launch Party.
Location: The Swarovski Crystallized Lounge in Soho, London.
I'm standing in front of an audience of 150 delivering an impassioned speech about the importance of women being powerfully themselves and choosing to live vibrant and 'Electric' lives. And I'm feeling like a fraud because I'm standing there, burnt out and exhausted, having worked 12-hour days for the past six weeks (which wasn't uncommon for me). As a woman with two businesses, I knew how to run myself into the ground. How to abuse my body with sugar, alcohol and stress and put on a brave face -something I'd been doing my whole adult life. The pressure I'd put on myself in the run-up to the launch was immense and I consoled myself by bingeing on food while sitting behind a computer screen, telling myself how busy and important I was.
If we're going by the number of people who came up to congratulate me during the evening, I was a resounding success. But inside, I was an insecure mess, and in no way feeling my 'Electric'. I knew I needed to make some big changes if I was to authentically lead my vision for Electric Woman from a place of inspiration, and I couldn't see a way to do this without a radical shift. I had also fallen out of love with London and resented the busy, congested city that represented my state of mind. So I made a commitment that evening to stop and rest, and to care for myself as a priority. To leave London for a year and with the objective of looking after myself.
I'd visited San Francisco before. Being there made my soul light up. It has a certain energy to it that has to do with the way people live out there: Healthy food. Green drinks. Yoga. Fresh air. A culture that is interested in personal development and human potential. It sang my name!
Now, I believe in the laws of attraction, manifestation and asking the Universe for what you want. And I practiced it well that year! Within a week of arriving there, I had a beautiful place to sub-let in Pacific Heights, with a state- of- the- art bed, a yoga studio next door, and the Presidio park (perfect for morning runs) on my doorstep. I became friends with the staff at the local Whole Foods Market and juice bars and I made it my mission to sleep, eat nourishing foods and revel in yoga and walking through the park, and talking out loud to the trees! Yes, that's right.
I remember getting in the shower in my new San Francisco home and spending time moisturising my skin afterwards, while thinking "I never moisturise and indulge myself like this, what's going on?" Looking after my body in this way had always felt alien to me and this was to become one of many changes I started to make as habit.
I documented this loving transition and started to realise how different I felt as the months went by, having breakthrough moments on my morning runs and looking at San Francisco Bay at sunset and just crying and releasing years of exhaustion. I see now that I needed the time to process what I was doing. To reflect.
During my year in San Francisco I changed from a woman who didn't value herself, to one who was being kind, committed and loving to herself. One of the biggest things that changed for me was to give myself permission to have what I wanted for my life, which is the number one thing that gives me energy to help others.
It was a year that set off a series of positive ripples, which are still affecting me today. It laid the foundation for the life I now live, with self-care at the top of my agenda. I no longer sit at my computer, alone, for 12 hours a day. I no longer work 12-hour days. Now, I have a rule that I don't start work before 11am, and I've finished by 7pm. Sugar, alcohol and burn out are no longer a part of my life. This is a choice I make consciously, every day. I'm now choosing to accept help from others, and my business is growing. I'm leading in a way that makes me feel inspired.
Last week, when I confessed to a client who had been at the Electric Woman launch party what was really going on for me at the time, she was stunned. She'd had no idea. It's not easy for me to admit that there was a time when I was working as a coach and feeling like a fraud. So why am I telling you all this now?
Because so many women who appear to have it all are on a private mission of self-destruction, like I was. And we are not taking self- care seriously as we think it's too self-indulgent and because of this, we are the ones who will lose out. We are the ones who are more likely to self-sabotage and suffer anxiety and depression. I'm tired of seeing ambitious women hold up a mask of perfectionism and productivity without being kind to themselves and asking for the support they are craving. "Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis." ― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
My mother, too, is a self-confessed, recovering perfectionist and workaholic; she was as hard on herself as I was on myself. She became a much more loving and nurturing presence when she started being loving and nurturing to herself. When she did this, she saved her marriage and now my family are much more open and intimate with each other. I see this as a huge credit to the changes in my mother.
Your taking self-care seriously will have a positive effect on all those around you, too.
If you resonate with this article, chances are radical self-care needs to be in your life. This was the best decision I have ever made and it's the foundation for all the women I work with who choose to lead their lives powerfully. I urge you to make this top of your priorities for big results in having the life you want.